Chris DeRose. The Presidents’ War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War that Divided Them. Guilford: Lyons Press, 2014.
DeRose’s Presidents’ War looks at the administrations of John Tyler, Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, and Franklin Pierce to show their contribution to the climate that escalated into the Civil War. DeRose continues to look at the Presidents during Lincoln’s administration and follows their contributions to the war effort (in the Union and Confederacy). This series of one term presidents can be difficult to parse through, and framing their administration within the debate over slavery and secession provides a complex but accessible narrative.
Joseph J. Ellis. The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.
Ellis’ The Quartet lays out the process that led to the creation of the U.S. Constitution by focusing on four key players: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. This focus does not exclude the network of influence and inspiration provided by other founding fathers, and effectively establishes the intensity of the debates, and what was at stake for the young nation.
Drew Gilpin Faust. This Republic Of Suffering.
Douglas A. Blackmon. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Anchor Books, 2008.
Blackmon charts the generations of Black Americans after the Civil War. The words of the Emancipation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments became hollow with the institutionalization of Jim Crow laws and forms of slavery that persisted in America. This Pulitzer Prize winner helps to deconstruct the myth that American slavery ended with the Civil War.
Doris Kearns Goodwin. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.
Chandra Manning. What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. New York: Vintage Books, 2007.